Saturday, 11 June 2011

Case Histories, Stewart Lee, ramblings

It's been a busy week, beginning with food poisoning (I don't remember having what Billy Connolly once called the de-orry-aye-hey-hoes before, and it's not pleasant) and spending the week recovering, while preaching comics in schools in Cardiff, Malmesbury, Bromsgrove and Glasgow (I really ought to say no to at least one school one day, but somehow I can't resist). And tonight I'm off to Suffolk to draw caricatures. Oh, and I managed to draw the first pages of Captain Clevedon comic in nearly twenty years earlier this week too. I also had time for some idle musings on...

Case Histories

This is a TV drama on BBC 1 starring Jason Isaacs, which was on the TV while I was working and recovering from my dicky tummy. And it frustrated the hell out of me. Not because of the stories, though they were disappointing enough. It seemed like plots from three episodes of Casualty squeezed into one story, with paper-thin characters of no real interest with very slight denouements. Heather pointed out they're adapted from books by Kate Atkinson, which puzzled her because she'd read some stuff by this author and considered her 'literary' (I put that in quotes cos I'm never sure what people mean, though I can only assume in this instance it meant 'better than what we're watching on telly right now'). Whatever had been so good in these books had clearly been removed in the transition to the screen. But that wasn't what frustrated me.

What so frustrated me was that the show was set in Edinburgh, only it wasn't. That is to say it was shot in Edinburgh. It's a city I know particularly well, and every backdrop is both familiar and gorgeous. But that was all it was, a backdrop. Not only did Edinburgh itself not feature in the stories, but wosrt of all - and this really is a bad thing - everyone was English!

Not only were most of the lead characters English, speaking with English accents, but there were even English actors attempting, with various degrees of success, to speak with Scottish accents! Is it only me who thinks that is clumsy, insulting, and criminally stupid? How could this possibly happen? How can you take a crime story, set in Scotland's capital and filmed in Scotland's capital, then people it almost entirely with English actors?

I got my answer yesterday in the bookshop at the airport, where Kate Atkinson's Case Histories sat on the front table, with Jason Isaacs on the front cover, proclaiming it to be "now a BBC TV series". I turned to the back cover for a description of the story. And the first word was..? Cambridge. "Cambridge is a city where..." it began.

So that's the answer. These stories are set not in Edinburgh but in Cambridge. And they've been adapted, and cast, and prepared for shooting. Then some location scout, some twenty something Tarquin or Jacinta from the home counties who thinks Birmingham is "the North" has seen Edinburgh, remembers it as a place they used to go in their Varsity days, and has selected it as a picturesque city "somewhere in the North of England, that'll do" and off they've gone. Disgraceful, and I hope they get all the BAFTAs they deserve. (I bet they win loads. Meanwhile when does Gary Tank Commander get shown in England, eh?)

*(It has just been pointed out to me by Pete Renshaw: No Kev, you should have bought the book. Jackson Brodie is an ex-cop and Yorkshireman, now private 'tec based in Edinburgh. The plot starts with three case histories, one of which starts with the childhood of four sisters in Cambridge, one child dies. Kate Atkinson was born in York and live in Auld Reekie. I stand corrected, though does that explain the lack of Scots in most of the show?)

Stewart Lee

I like Stewart Lee. I'm a big fan of Stewart Lee, Lee. I used to like him years ago. In fact I probably liked him before you'd ever heard of him, I'm that big a fan of his. Very nostalgic for the Stewart Lee, Stew. And I've enjoyed this new series of his on BBC 2, even more than the last one. You know the BBC 2? It's a TV channel, that you watch on a TV set. You used to have them back in the olden days, TV sets. (Oh stop it, you don't sound anything like him).

My point is, this week he told a story about David Cameron and his Bullingdon Club friends at Oxford. And a lot of the aim of the story was to demonstrate the difference between 'them' and 'us'. Them being the old Etonian priveleged posh boys like Cameron and Boris, and Us being normal people like you and me, the viewer at home and our representative on earth Stewart Lee.

My question is, how much One Of Us is Stewart Lee. I mean he talks about Cameron as priveleged, and he points out how he, Stew, is middle classed and not working class. But he really does seem to suggest, and even to feel, that he comes from the same background as everyone else in the audience, everyone else at home. You and me.

Only Stewart Lee went to public school. In the British sense that is, he went to an independent school. He went to the exclusive, selective, fee-paying, priveleged by dint of the fact that your parents can afford the school fees, independent school Solihull School in Solihull in the West Midlands. That's the same school that his fellow Men Of The People Richard Hammond and Simon Mayo went to.

So all I'm saying is.. well you see what I'm saying.

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